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Teen Crisis Line Back After Being Jammed By Scammer

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A local teen crisis center is feeling some relief after a crisis of their own.

The hotline for suicidal and abused teens run by The Bridge for Youth was restored late Wednesday after being blocked off for a day after someone took it over, possibly leaving teens in danger.

A cyber security expert says it’s likely the scammer used a computer program to create an onslaught of calls to jam up the hotline.

Joan Countrymen heads up emergency services at The Bridge for Youth, and says it’s been a long few days.

“I felt very bullied, I felt harassed, I felt frustrated,” Countrymen said.

They had another slow day of calls after the scammer forced them into changing the number they’ve had for years.

“We weren’t able to provide the service that we needed to them, and that’s heartbreaking to me,” she said.

She talked with the scammer on Tuesday, begging him to stop calling and refusing his demands for money.

“I was very firm and very stern with him, and he did not care,” Countrymen said.

A cyber security expert tells WCCO that The Bridge for Youth is likely the victims of TDOS, a type of attack where someone uses a computer to clog up phone lines.

FBI Agent Kyle Loven says his agency is warning people about this type of attack.

“Unfortunately, 911 centers, emergency services have been attacked in the past,” Loven said.

He says the attack on the Bridge seems to be the first reported in Minnesota, and it may not just be about money.

“As far as motivations, that can range anywhere from the thrill of it, the sick thrill if you will, to just being a nuisance,” he said.

He advises potential victims to never give in to demands for money, and to call the FBI immediately – which is just what the Bridge did.

Countrymen says they are working hard to keep their line going.

“We’ll try to find a way to make this work,” she said.

The Bridge for Youth’s hotline number is 612-377-8800.

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